Write What You…Know?

on November 23, 2014 Anna 1 Reply

[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #ff0000;”] W [/dropcap]hen I sat down to write this my intent was to talk about RWA#14 from a newbie’s perspective. You know, everything from the blank look I gave people who asked for my business card to “Have you ever seen such a long line at Starbuck’s?”

I’m still going to write that blog because I know you’re dying to hear about how I went all fan-girl on Eloisa James. But a whole lot of stuff happened before I ever made it to RWA#14, and it only seems fair to start at the beginning.

We all have our own paths to stumble down—our own truths to encounter on our journey to becoming writers. For me, it began with the simple adage: Write What You Know.

Good advice, isn’t it?

Sure it is…if you are writing a memoir, or an autobiography. Or, maybe this advice could work for you if you’re a beekeeper writing a non-fiction treatise about the mating habits of leafcutter bees.

Then, good for you — have at it

But what if you want to write fiction? What about the creative element? What if you’re pretty sure you know nothing and would rather the world not find out about it?

Now, of course I know things. So do you. We all do. The problem isn’t about not knowing. It’s that we may not want to write about what we do know.

I know about being a mother, and living in the Pacific Northwest, and I know where to get really great Chinese food in Portland. These are all wonderful things to know but I don’t particularly want to write about any of them. But, damn it, I can’t recall the last time I was whisked away to an isolated castle in the Scottish Highlands by a handsome, brooding and potentially mad earl determined to wed me for my fortune. Does that mean I’m not allowed to write about it?

‘Write What You Know’ just didn’t work for me. I needed a new adage.

I started with Write What You Know . . . Nothing About

Nope. No good; too many possible topics.

Then I tried, Write What You Love.

No, still no good. It has a ring to it, but I love being a Mom and I love living in Oregon and I love eating great Chinese food, but I still don’t want to write about any of it.

Write What You Love didn’t get me any closer to getting my butt in the chair and my hands on the keyboard.

Then I tried: You’re Never Going to Write a Thing, Are You? I discarded it on the grounds that bullying is never the answer.

It was hopeless. I couldn’t conjure a new adage so instead I fell back upon my two favorite pithy sayings:

Writers don’t write because they want to. They write because they have to.

Never give up on something you can’t go a day without thinking about. – Winston Churchill.

They’d echoed in the back of my head for years, but it wasn’t until I put them together that they actually made a difference in the way I perceive myself as a writer. Yes, it took me years to put them together. I’m quick like that.

I’d be at work, or making dinner, or drinking margaritas at girls’ night and the thought would come from nowhere like a slap to the back of my head. I should write a novel. Then it became, I want to write a novel. And then, I know I can write a novel. Before long it was, I have to write a novel. And – at last – I need to write my novel.

I thought about it constantly. It lurked underneath everything I did. It was ever-present, burrowing deeper with every day that passed like a tick squirming its way under my skin. I need to write my novel. If I don’t write it, the characters who speak in full sentences in my head and the little devils with Jane Austen’s face will continue to stab at me with their sharp, tiny pitchforks.

Writers don’t write because they want to. They write because they have to.

Never give up on something you can’t go a day without thinking about.

About a year ago, I sat down and wrote a historical romance novel, A Wicked Way to Win an Earl. I understand what it means to want a little recognition for your hard work but I truly didn’t write my book to make money, or to get famous (good thing, too!). I did it for myself, because I knew I could.

And I had an absolute ball doing it, even on those days when I tore my hair from my head and filled my recycling bin with balled up pieces of paper. Writing my book is one of the single most personally gratifying things I’ve ever done and that’s the best reason I can think of to do anything.

It wasn’t until I finished the book that I finally stumbled across my new adage:

Write Because You Know

Write because you think about it every single day. Write because you have to. Because way down deep in some part of you where there is no doubt and no fear and no excuses you know you can and you know it’s what you’re meant to do.

We all have our own paths to stumble down — our own truths to encounter on our journey to become a writer. For me, it all came down to a simple adage:

Write Because You Know

If I can do it, so can you. Because, sometimes, you just knowYou know?

One thought on “Write What You…Know?”

  1. I love your website design, Anna, and your books sound terrific. I’ve bookmarked your site and will return often. BTW, where did you grow up in Maine? I work and live here (greater Portland (the smaller Portland).

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